DENVER (KDVR) — A Denver man recently completed seven marathons in seven days on seven different continents, all in honor of his father who is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Karan Rai is one of about 200 people to ever complete the World Marathon Challenge, raising more than $80,000 for the Parkinson’s Foundation through their Parkinson’s Champions program.
“This was so far out of my comfort zone I just had to do it,” Rai said.
His father, Ranjit, who lives with the neurodegenerative disease associated with a progressive loss of motor control, was the inspiration behind it all. Ranjit was a veteran of the Indian Armed Forces and served at the highest levels in the special operations community for nearly 23 years.
“To see my Dad go from being this really active, adventurer, explorer, outdoorsman to some days where he just needs help going to the bathroom, it’s just been tough to watch,” Rai said. “It’s been tough on him.”
Rai said he’s always been an athlete, but never a runner.
“It was a whole lot of running,” Rai said. “I started pretty slow but got up to where I was running 60 to 100 miles a week, so it was anywhere to 10 to 15 hours a week I was on my feet running.”
Rai prepares to tackle huge feat
He trained for months. The week before the start of the marathons, Rai said he tore a ligament in his knee, but he decided to run through it.
“I was just so committed to this goal,” Rai said. “It meant so much to me and I wanted to see what we could get done.”
For Rai, it was more about finishing all seven marathons rather than running for time.
On Jan. 31, Rai flew to Antarctica for marathon number one.
“It was -27 degrees, 40 mph wind and it was one of the most brutal conditions that I’ve ever been in outdoors, let alone run a marathon in,” Rai said.
He then traveled to Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid and Brazil. Rai said his father was cheering him on every step of the way.
“He was waking up in the middle of the night to see whether or not I was finishing races and sending me texts saying, ‘You got this,’” Rai said.
Rai finished off the week in Miami for the final marathon.
“There was this sense of relief more than anything else, but also a sense of accomplishment, just kind of gutting it and getting it done,” he said.
He said his family and friends flew in from all over the country to watch him finish.
“They were all there and so lots of hugs, a few tears and feeling of accomplishment, but also realizing I never want to do this again,” Rai said.
Rai visits his father after completion
A few days later, Rai presented his father with all his finisher medals.
“He got a little emotional,” Rai said. “It was just a really special moment.”
It’s a moment Rai said he’ll remember forever.
“One of the lessons my dad taught me early on is you’re meant to test your limits and if you’re going to do that, find a cause that’s near and dear to your heart and raise awareness and money for it,” he said.
Parkinson’s Foundation President and CEO John Lehr said the nonprofit is grateful for everything Rai has done.
“What he’s done through all these marathons across the world is exactly the type of dedication we not only see from our staff but from our volunteers,” Lehr said. “People are just incredibly dedicated to bringing awareness and to helping their loved ones.”